As an investor, it doesn't pay to follow the crowd.

In this series, though, we highlight a possible exception -- the collective wisdom of our CAPS community. Read the next section if you're unfamiliar with our methodology. Skip it if you want to go straight to the results.

Why this crowd is different
Jumping into a stock because your rich neighbor did, or because you heard about it from your friend's uncle who used to work on Wall Street, or because CNBC has been talking about it nonstop is a recipe for disaster.

If there's one thing I've learned as a stock analyst, it's that any stock can be gussied up to sound like a world-beater. If there's a second thing I've learned, it's that being a smart person doesn't make you a good investor.

In the hands of a smart person with good communication skills, the never-were and never-will-be stocks sound like tickets to instant fortune. The ancient Greek philosophers made the distinction between rhetoric and knowledge. The former is convincing; the latter is true.

That's why we factor in track record in our Motley Fool CAPS community. We invite everyone to give stocks an outperform (i.e., a "buy") or underperform rating (i.e., a "sell") in CAPS. We then use those opinions to calculate a rating for each stock -- from one to five stars (five being the best). But -- and this is a big distinction -- we give more weight to the opinions of folks whose picks have performed well in the past.

The No. 1 health services buy
So, with that methodology as prelude, I present to you the No. 1 health services stock (as well as the top runners-up) based on the number of CAPS members who have rated the stock an outperform. Only stocks rated 4 or 5 stars (i.e. consensus buys) are included.

Company

Market Capitalization (in millions)

Outperform Picks

CAPS Rating (out of 5)

Intuitive Surgical (Nasdaq: ISRG)

$12,424

     3,621

****

UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH)

$36,010

     3,330

****

Mindray Medical (NYSE: MR)

$2,870

     1,518

****

China Medical Technologies (Nasdaq: CMED)

$345

     1,422

*****

Natus Medical (Nasdaq: BABY)

$368

     1,404

*****

Stryker Corporation (NYSE: SYK)

$18,490

     1,380

*****

Medtronic (NYSE: MDT)

$38,520

     1,222

****

Source: Motley Fool CAPS.

More CAPS members think robotic-surgery pioneer Intuitive Surgical is a buy than any other health services stock. Do you think it deserves to be the No. 1 buy? Make your thoughts known in CAPS by clicking here. Or just go there to do further research on one of these popular stocks.

As for me, I'm giving an outperform rating to UnitedHealth in CAPS today. I've written recently about my feelings on it. You can read that article here. You can see my CAPS profile here.

Anand Chokkavelu owns shares of Intuitive Surgical. Natus Medical is a Motley Fool Hidden Gems pick. Stryker and UnitedHealth are Inside Value picks. Intuitive Surgical and Mindray Medical are Rule Breakers recommendations. UnitedHealth Group is also a Stock Advisor pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on UnitedHealth. The Fool owns shares of Medtronic and UnitedHealth. The Fool has a disclosure policy.